Stuff I Gotta Do

16 04 2010

I’ve been asked, along with a bunch of other folks, to contribute to an editorial piece for Civil War Times magazine.  The topic – the Governor of Virginia’s Confederate History Month proclamation, his apology for the wording of same, and the sometimes thoughtful, sometimes bizarre reactions they prompted – is a hot one just now.  I decided not to discuss it here, because as a commenter on Robert Moore’s blog correctly points out the controversy is a lot more about the present than it is about the past.  And I think no one can deny that modern politics, which are taboo here, play a big part in the discussion.  The other contributors are mostly big shots and mostly real historians (and doubtless scratching their heads wondering who the Harry guy in the e-mail cc list is), so I don’t anticipate my contribution will stand out in any positive way, and may even wind up on the cutting room floor.  I’ll give it a shot, but every time I think about it I go off in different directions.

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Chickamauga Tour

14 03 2010

Here’s an article on friend Dave Powell’s most recent tours for the Chickamauga Study Group, which are held at the battlefield annually in cooperation with the NPS and park historian Jim Ogden.  These tours have been well attended, though unfortunately not by me.  I did have the opportunity a few years ago to spend a couple of days on the field there with Dave, and have heard very positive reviews from others who have attended this series.  If you get the chance next year, don’t pass it up.  There’s also a video in the link above, and you can see Dave a couple of times during Ranger Ogden’s voiceover.   That’s Dave on the right in the Chattanooga Times Free Press photo above, standing quietly and carrying a big stick.

UPDATE: See here for Dave’s recap of the tours.

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Bull Runnings Elsewhere

6 03 2010

Facebook friend Garry Adelman alerted me to this site for the Averasboro (NC) Battlefield and Museum, which features a snippet from this article I wrote on the death of Willie Hardee at the Battle of Bentonville.  I’m flattered they used my article, but wish they had linked to it so interested folks could read the whole thing.  In addition, I’ve written articles on Hardee in-law William Kirkland and on the town in which Willie is interred, Hillsborough, NC.  Check them out.

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Bull Run in the News – Kenton Harper, 5th VA

6 03 2010

Due to the transient nature of online newspaper urls, I’m going to depart from my custom of simply linking to OPW (other people’s work) and reproduce in its entirety this article from Staunton’s News Leader.  Kenton Harper was colonel of the 5th VA Infantry in Jackson’s Brigade (which means he was not “one of Bee’s officers”).

Kenton Harper Left Large Footprint in Staunton

By Charles Culbertson • mail@stauntonhistory.com • March 6, 2010

The moment was not going well for Confederate forces in the first major land battle of the Civil War. A coordinated Union attack at 11:30 a.m., July 21, 1861, had driven forces under Gen. Barnard Bee to the Henry House Hill near Manassas and was on the verge of breaking the line.

Suddenly, one of Bee’s officers — 60-year-old Col. Kenton Harper of Staunton — approached him and pointed out the presence of five regiments of Virginia troops under Col. Thomas J. Jackson that had just arrived on the scene.
Bee quickly made his way to Jackson and said, “The enemy are driving us,” to which Jackson reportedly replied, “Then, sir, we will give them the bayonet.”

At that point Bee is said to have shouted to his men, “There stands Jackson like a stone wall! Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Follow me!”

Some have claimed that Bee’s statement was perjorative — that Jackson was “standing there like a damned stone wall.” Whatever he said or how he meant it — we will never know, for Bee was mortally wounded moments later — his command rallied with Jackson’s men, who routed Union forces and helped win the First Battle of Manassas for the South.
Jackson, of course, received the immortal sobriquet, “Stonewall.”

It is unlikely that Bee was being critical of Jackson. Harper, a renowned Staunton publisher, politician, soldier and farmer, had little reason to either like Jackson or to portray him in a favorable light. Just before his death at age 66 in 1867, Harper told the editor of the Staunton Spectator that Bee’s words had been:

“Rally here! Look how these Virginians stand like a stone wall!”

Harper’s experience with the quirky professor from Virginia Military Institute began in April 1861. A major general in the Virginia state militia, Harper was given command of the 5th Virginia Infantry Regiment and marched out of Staunton with 2,400 men to seize the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry.

The assault was a success, with Harper’s men salvaging thousands of muskets, as well as milling machines, lathes and other supplies. Later that month, Harper was replaced in favor of Jackson, a move that irritated Harper and angered many of the officers serving under him.

He was further alienated from Jackson when, in September 1861, Jackson denied him leave to be by his dying wife’s side.

But Harper was bigger than his grievances, having forged a long and fruitful career through diligence, honor and competency. He continued to serve the Confederate cause despite fragile health that was exacerbated by the rigors of war.

Born in Chambersburg, Pa., in 1801, Harper grew up in the printing business, learning the trade from his father, who published the Franklin County Repository. In 1823, he moved to Staunton where he purchased the Republican Farmer and changed its name to the Staunton Spectator.

In 1836 Harper began serving as a state legislator and, in 1840, filled a year’s term as Staunton’s mayor. When the U.S. went to war with Mexico in 1846, Harper was appointed a captain in the 1st Virginia Infantry, commanding the Augusta County volunteers in the northern frontier of Mexico.

Although he never saw action, his “soldierly demeanor was so marked” that he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and given a military governorship in Parras, Northern Mexico. He was officially commended for the manner in which he conducted himself in that post.

Mustered out of service in 1848, Harper returned to Staunton where he sold the Spectator to the Waddell family. Soon he was appointed under President Millard Fillmore as U.S. agent to the Chicasaws at Fort Washita in the Indian Territory, a post he administered with distinction. His service there led to an appointment as assistant to the Secretary of the Interior — a post held by another Staunton resident, Alexander H.H. Stuart.

At the end of his term, Harper returned to Staunton where he worked his Augusta County farm, “Glen Allen,” and served as the president of the Bank of the Valley. By 1860 he was a major general in the Virginia state militia, a post that led to his military involvement in the Civil War.

After Jackson refused him permission to visit his dying wife, Harper resigned his commission and returned to Staunton for her funeral. He was again elected into the state legislature and, in 1864, was re-appointed as a colonel. Forming a regiment from reservist companies, he led them in battle at Piedmont and again at Waynesboro.

Two years after the war, Harper contracted pneumonia. Some of his last words were reported as, “I would not live always; I ask not to stay.” He died on Christmas Day, 1867.

Upon his death, the newspaper he had founded wrote, “His memory we should not willingly let die, his example of a virtuous life and peaceful death should long remain to point to each of us the lesson of the fineness he so truly illustrated.”

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Manus (Jack) Fish, 1928-2010

5 03 2010

Manus “Jack” Fish, long time employee of the National Park Service and regional director of the National Capital Region (which includes the battlefields of Manassas and Antietam) from 1973 to his retirement in 1988, has died after suffering a stroke on February 27.  During his tenure as regional director, he oversaw significant expansion of Manassas National Battlefield Park.  He was big into tree planting, so I’m not sure how he viewed the current trend of restoring view-sheds on the battlefields.  Here is his obituary, and here is a longer biography, from which I got the photo at left.

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Carnegie, PA GAR Post Renovation

16 02 2010

Here’s a Pittsburgh Post Gazette article about a recently renovated Grand Army of the Republic meeting room in the Carnegie Library in nearby Carnegie, PA.  You can read more about it in the Washington Post and the Civil War News.  And here’s a video made before the restoration work was completed.  I’m going to try to get over there, take some photos, and give you the lowdown.

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More on Art Bergeron

10 02 2010

I received some more information today on the passing of Art Bergeron two days ago.  The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made in Art’s name to the American Cancer Society or to the March of Dimes.  The March of Dimes address:

March  of Dimes  Foundation

Central  Pennsylvania  Division

160  South  Progress Avenue, 1A

Harrisburg, PA 17257

See also historian and author Jeff Prushankin’s fine tribute to Art Bergeron.

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Art Bergeron

9 02 2010

A friend emailed me early this morning with the shocking news that Art Bergeron passed away yesterday, 2/8/2010.  I only met Art once, where he worked at the U. S. Army Military History Institute in Carlisle, PA, helping countelss visitors navigate the archives.  We were Facebook friends, we corresponded occasionally, and he was a good friend to Bull Runnings, always generous with his time and significant expertise.  Art earned his PhD at Louisiana State University, was a Viet Nam veteran, and authored or edited many books and articles on the Civil War, with an emphasis on Louisiana. Historians and researches have lost a good friend and resource.  Drew has posted this link to a bio of Art at the Civil War Round Table of Central Louisiana.

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Viewshed Meeting Tonight

13 01 2010

I just learned from Facebook friend, author, and Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Garry Adelman that a meeting will be held tonight at the Manassas National Battlefield Park visitor center on Henry Hill, regarding the Manassas Battlefields Viewsheds Study project.  The following is from Prince William County’s website:

For Release

December 23, 2009

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, VIRGINIA . . . The Prince William County Planning Office and the Manassas National Battlefield Park are jointly managing a grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program to study the Battlefields’ militarily significant views.  This is the third and final public meeting for the Manassas Battlefields Viewsheds Study project.
 
A Public Meeting for the Manassas Battlefields Viewshed Study will be held Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010 at 7 p.m. at the Henry Hill Visitor Center, Manassas National Battlefield Park at 6511 Sudley Road, Manassas, VA. At the meeting, the Study’s consultant will present the draft Viewshed Preservation Plan and solicit comment from the public. 
 
Copies of the draft Viewshed Preservation Plan (VPP) are available for review at the Henry Hill Visitor Center, at Park Headquarters; in the Prince William County Planning Office; at the Chinn Regional, Bull Run Regional, Central Community, and Gainesville Neighborhood libraries; and on-line at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/. To view the draft online, under Parks select Manassas NBP, select Conduct Study of Critical Historic Viewsheds of Manassas Battlefield, select Open for Public Comment). At this site, comments can be entered, or, for further information or to comment on the Plan, call the Park Headquarters at 703-754-1861, extension 0.  All comments on the VPP are due to the Park no later than Jan. 27, 2010.
 
Accessibility to Persons with Disabilities: This meeting is being held at a public facility believed to be accessible to persons with disabilities.  Any person with questions on the accessibility of the facility should contact the Henry Hill Visitor Center, 6511 Sudley Road, Manassas, Virginia, 20109, or by telephone at 703-361-1339 or TDD 703-361-7075.
 
Directions to the Henry Hill Visitor Center

From Washington D.C. and Points East:  Travel west on I-66 to Exit 47B, Route 234 North (Sudley Road).  Proceed through the first traffic light. The entrance to the Henry Hill Visitor Center is on the right, just past the Northern Virginia Community College.
 
From Points North:  Travel south on I-95 to the Capital Beltway (Route 495).  Travel west towards Silver Springs, MD.  Continue on the Beltway for approximately 10 miles, crossing the Potomac River into Virginia.  Take the exit for I-66 west to Manassas.  Take Exit 47B, Route 234 North (Sudley Road).  Proceed through the first traffic light. The entrance to the Henry Hill Visitor Center is on the right, just past the Northern Virginia Community College.
 
From Points South:  Travel north on I-95 to Exit 152, Route 234 north towards Manassas.  Stay on Business Route 234 (do not take the by-pass) and travel for approximately 20 miles just beyond the city of Manassas.  The entrance to the Henry Hill Visitor Center is located on the right, just past the entrance to the Northern Virginia Community College.
 
From Points West: Travel east on I-66 to Exit 47, Route 234 North (Sudley Road).  Turn left on Route 234 and proceed through the first traffic light.  The entrance to the Henry Hill Visitor Center is on the right, just past the Northern Virginia Community College.

If any of you attend, please let us know what is discussed.

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Getting Them to Get It

17 12 2009

See this story of Columbus Bluejackets coach – and Civil War enthusiast – Ken Hitchcock’s difficulties in communicating with his young hockey team.  Seems like his problem is not unlike that of getting young folks interested in history.

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